St Thomas’ claimed their third Galway SHC title with the largest winning margin in nine seasons as Darragh Burke inspired them to a memorable victory at Pearse Stadium.
Liam Mellows’ defence of the Tom Callanan Cup faltered with a poor performance and a brilliant rearguard action from St Thomas’ held them to four points from play.
The goals came from Darragh Burke 11 minutes from the break and captain Conor Cooney midway through the second-half, but in Eanna Burke and Shane Cooney, in particular, there were some outstanding performances right across the field from the victors.
The prize for St Thomas is a spot in the All-Ireland semi-final against Ulster winners Cushendall, and on this showing the men from Kilchreest, Peterswell and Castledaly will fancy a return to the All-Ireland final.
“It’s probably elation,” said a delighted St Thomas’ manager Kevin Lally.
“The guys have applied themselves savagely all year. This was their 110th session between training and matches all year. It’s a mad stat.
“These training sessions that we put guys through, we pushed them really hard. It was great that we came today and put in a really good performance. I think we are the fittest team in Galway.
“It was brilliant to see some of the scores that we got there today. They are all very natural hurlers. From my point of view I was trying to bring that bit of the dog into the team, that bit of narkiness. Thankfully it came to fruition today.”
From the start St Thomas’ were on song — their third victorious appearance in the decider in seven seasons. They pulled four points clear by the sixth minute and despite Adrian Morrissey’s frees cutting the gap to one point on one occasions, Mellows would never level after David Burke’s monster point to start the ball rolling in the third minute.
His brother, Darragh, fired his first point from the right sideline and quickly added his second moments later as they powered into the lead with the wind at their backs.
After Morrissey briefly halted their surge, Darragh Burke’s ground stroke rattled the net and put St Thomas’s five points ahead.
All six Mellows points in the first-half came from Morrissey frees, but two Darragh Burke points and another from James Regan meant they deserved their 1-10 to 0-6 half-time lead.
Had Mellows converted either of the goal chances that fell to Conor Kavanagh or Enda Fallon in the second minute of the second half we might have seen a different outcome, but instead Gerald Murray and Cathal Burke came to the rescue, and Darragh Burke continued to add to his tally.
His first of the second half was a key score that came on the tail of some fierce battling for possession, and after Kevin Lee hit Mellows’s first score from play, Burke responded with two more points for his side.
But the killer goal soon came when Eanna Burke picked out Conor Cooney and the Galway forward hit an unstoppable shot past Kenneth Walsh in the 45th minute.
With defeat imminent, Mellows moved David Collins into full-forward and the former All-Star looked lively in there, but the late points of Tadhg Haran and Jack Forde only served as window dressing.
“From our point of view we didn’t know what to expect but we got hit by a juggernaut,” said Mellows manager Louis Mulqueen.
“Unfortunately today we met a team that was on fire. We didn’t function in the forward line, you will win nothing from ten points scored.”
St Thomas’ have now won all four of the Galway and All-Ireland finals they have contested and will be hard to beat in 2019.
Scorers for St Thomas’: Darragh Burke 1-7 (0-3f), Conor Cooney 1-1, Eanna Burke 0-3, James Regan 0-1, David Burke 0-1.
Scorers for Liam Mellows: Adrian Morrissey 0-6 (0-6f), Kevin Lee 0-1, Conor Hynes 0-1, Tadhg Haran 0-1, Jack Forde 0-1.
ST THOMAS’: G Murray; C Mahoney, C Burke, D Sherry; F Burke, S Cooney, D Cooney; David Burke, J Regan; C Cooney, Darragh Burke, D McGlynn; B Burke, B Farrell, E Burke.
Substitutes: K Burke for McGlynn (40), C Kelly for B Burke (43), M Caulfield for Farrell (59), S Skehill for D Cooney (59), D Finnerty for E Burke (62).
LIAM MELLOWS: K Walsh; B Leen, S Morrissey, C Reilly; M Hughes, D Collins, M Conneely; J Hastings, K Lee; A Morrissey, C Hynes, T Haran; E Fallon, C Kavanagh, A Callanan.
Substitutes: J Forde for A Morrissey (39), R Elwood for Callanan (39), S Barrett for Fallon (43), C Elwood for K Lee (53).
Referee: Liam Gordon (Killimor).